In my work as a coach, I find that the inner game, i.e. the stuff of character, is the hardest, yet most significant, aspect of leadership development. Professional leadership coaching is the most effective way to approach leadership development, coupled with robust assessments and feedback surveys. I wrote about the inner game of leadership in my previous post here.

Even the most conservative estimates show a five to seven times return on investment from leadership coaching (Price Waterhouse, ICF study). But coaching success depends on the relationship between leader and coach. The coaching relationship must provide a secure environment to explore character strengths and beliefs.

Whether applied to sports or work, the inner game is where we begin to understand ourselves and make key changes. The concept is neither new nor particularly revolutionary, but based on a profound concept: focusing attention without judgment.

When you learn to observe behavior (your own and others’) without criticism, you’ll start to see where change is possible. Removing judgment facilitates change.

The Coach as Nonjudgmental Partner

Communication skills, like listening and observing, are automatic and unconscious. Everyone knows how to do them. Yet, in my experience, we don’t always listen and observe well, without judgment—a requirement for achieving desirable outcomes from conversations.

Leaders experience ineffective conversations all the time. When people don’t respond to their suggestions as delivered, they’re repeated louder or with different words. The outcome is resistance.

I find that few people enjoy being told what to do, especially when the boss comes across as critical or judgmental. As a leader with authority, you’ll be perceived as controlling and dictatorial. It doesn’t matter how well intentioned you may be.

What’s your opinion or experience? Have you worked with a dictatorial boss? Or experienced one who was nonjudgmental? I’d love to hear from you; You can contact me here or on LinkedIn.